Iowa's west coast challenge.

Updated: Oct 18

Egents path to the Sioux City pitch off.


Recently, we entered a contest for a chance to win a fraction of $10K to prototype a virtual reality content platform that we have been experimenting with. The platform was important to us because we had a personal need for it. Watch our why.


This was just an experimentation for us. We were building a solution for ourselves, but we were initially unsure how many more people out there were like us. After sharing our rough prototype with friends, we knew we were on to something. Now we had to figure out how to improve on what we had by upgrading our platform and increasing the content on there. It was around this time that we came across BIG Challenge which is an acronym for Build Innovate Grow in Northwest Iowa.

WHY BIG

The challenge allows entrepreneurs the chance to submit their dreams to start or expand a business, then encourage friends, family, and customers to vote for them online. Five finalists will present their idea to an audience and judges in a pitch competition with $10,000 in prize money to be awarded.

ABOUT BIG

The contest is organized by Northwest Iowa development cooperation. Think of the cooperation like the economic development corporations of multiple counties in one. The six counties spanning the region of Northwest Iowa - Cherokee, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Plymouth, and Sioux - pulled resources together towards one goal, driving economic traffic to the region. The cost of that drive?! $10,000!


CHOOSING FINALISTS

  1. VOTING! Applicants will recruit friends, family, and customers to vote for their idea online during the voting period, from October 5 - 14. Five finalists will emerge.

  2. PITCH COMPETITION! The five finalists will have the opportunity to showcase their ideas to an audience and judges.


CONTESTANTS

There are 14 contestants from 6 cities with existing businesses or startups in verticals like food, arts, tech, counseling, and more.


The population of cities representing the participants ranged from 1,400 people to 86,000 people. Egents were the only applicant representing our city, with a population of over 5,500 people. Two other contestants represented their city as well.


Here’s how we powered through the voting round.

  1. Defined the outcome we wanted. We wanted a minimum of 1,500 votes because we figured this was a good enough number to earn us a place in the final round.

  2. Developed a plan to get that outcome. Our goal was to get 1,500 votes in 10 days. Family, Friends, and customers could vote one time per day until the end of the contest on Friday Oct 14th. Our strategy was to get 1,000 people to vote once and 50 people to vote daily for 10 days.

  3. Voter block. Our voter bloc was our family, friends, customers, and eventually, our city. After we realized that we were the only contestants from our city, we reached out to the chamber of commerce and economic development foundation and asking for their support in spreading the word.

  4. Messaging. We crafted a message that we needed to distribute to our voter bloc and personalized it to each bloc.

  5. Distribution. Facebook, LinkedIn, Text messaging and calls were our mail distribution channels. We made posts on our Facebook and LinkedIn business pages, directly messaged on friends Facebook, and texted and called on phone. We sent over 1,700 direct messages on Facebook messenger, and event got locked out from directly messaging multiple times.

RESULT

Our position grew from 6th place to 5th place, and progressively grew to 2nd place. Earning us a place in the top 3 to move to the final pitch off event on November 17th in Sioux City. Our final vote count at second place was 1,464, quite close to our minimum goal of 1,500 votes.

We'll keep you posted :)

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